This Week in the Mets Offseason: Jed Lowrie May Have Been a Mistake

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Mets signing Jed Lowrie and at the time I was a fan of the deal. He made the Mets infield a strength with plenty of added flexibility.

However, the signings of AJ Pollock and Asdrubal Cabrera show that the Mets may have spent a little too much money on the 35-year-old infielder. The Mets signed Jed Lowrie for two years and 20 million dollars, a fair deal considering how well he has played the last two seasons.

In the slow market of MLB free agency this offseason, it may be that the pact with Lowrie was a bit too generous on the Mets part. For instance, Asdrubal Cabrera actually had put up very similar numbers his last two seasons in New York and only signed a one year deal for 3.5 million with the Texas Rangers.

If you compare Lowrie’s last three seasons in Oakland and Cabrera’s time in New York you could easily argue that Cabrera was the better player. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the Mets should’ve jumped at the opportunity to bring back Cabby at that price to fill the same role Lowrie will this season.

Cabrera even said he wanted to return to the big apple on Instagram but the Mets preferred other players.

Let’s say the Mets could have gotten Cabrera for 3.5 million dollars, saving the team 6.5 million dollars as compared to Lowrie’s contract what could the Mets do with that extra money that is clearly in their budget? Sign AJ Pollock.

Pollock inked a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last week that guarantees him 55 million dollars across four seasons and can be worth up to 60 million if the Dodgers use a team option for a fifth season.

If he has 1,450 plate appearances from 2019-2021 or 1,000 plate appearances between 2020 and 2021 he has the right to opt out after 2021 and be paid a 5 million dollar buyout. The contract is very confusing, but he essentially will have an AAV of 12 million dollars across five seasons, 13.75 million across four, or 14 million across three years.

His contract breaks down like this: 2019-4million, 2020-15 million, 2021-18 million, 2022-13 million, 2023-10 million.

To make it simple let’s say the Mets offered him the same deal money wise and he signed with the team wouldn’t the Mets be an overall better unit? They could break down his contract a little differently, by taking 3 million off of the 2021 season and adding it to the 2019 season making his salary 7 million dollars. The Mets would then have Pollock and Cabrera for just 500,000 dollars more than they are paying Jed Lowrie.

The bottom line is that those two players together is better than Jed Lowrie by himself. Not to mention the Mets could then easily trade Juan Lagares to a team willing to take on any part of his contract. Lagares is due 9 million dollars this season and has a club option for 2020 worth 9.5 million and a 500,000 dollar buyout.

So, if the Mets signed Pollock and Cabrera for the contracts above and traded Lagares their payroll would actually be lower as long as the team taking Lagares would be willing to take on more than 500,000 dollars of his contract.

With his elite defense, I think a team would be willing to pay him at least 2 million dollars, which would make the Mets payroll 1.5 million dollars less this upcoming season than it is now.

This plan sounds nice in theory and in all honesty I would’ve preferred the Mets take this route, but I know they didn’t want to lock in a long term commitment with Pollock because of his injury concerns.

However, the National League East is shaping up to be one of the toughest divisions in baseball and the Mets are not the clear division favorite, no matter what Brodie Van Wagenen has been saying.

To prove that these moves would have made the Mets a much better team in 2019 let’s just compare what the lineups would look like on Opening Day:

  1. RF Nimmo          1. RF Nimmo
  2. 3B Cabrera         2. 3B Lowrie
  3. 2B Cano             3. 2B Cano
  4. CF Pollock          4. LF Conforto
  5. LF Conforto         5. C Ramos
  6. C Ramos             6. 1B Frazier
  7. 1B Frazier            7. CF Lagares/Broxton
  8. Pitcher                8. Pitcher
  9. SS Rosario          9. SS Rosario

I think everyone sees that the lineup with Pollock and Cabrera in it is more potent, just as flexible, and a smarter move for the Mets. A four-year pact with Pollock is risky and would cause playing time issues when and if Cespedes returns, but in my opinion, it is better to be proactive and sign someone who is healthy now instead of wishing you had done so mid-season.

You put the best guys on the field and deal with problems when they arise, not before they do. Cespedes could come back and be terrible, Conforto and/or Nimmo could take steps back and prove not to be the everyday outfielders they appear to be.

In those cases, Pollock would come in handy with his elite defense and powerful bat. I’m still happy the Mets signed Lowrie, but Brodie should’ve realized that the current market made it possible for the Mets to improve in two areas for the same price.

If the Mets signed Pollock and Cabrera while unloading Lagares I would argue they are the best team in the National League East. For now, I have to say they are behind the Nationals and are even with the Braves and Phillies.

Other News

The Mets signed veteran lefty reliever Justin Wilson to a two-year deal worth 10 million dollars. I could not be happier with this signing. I outlined Wilson as someone the Mets should target back in July. I think he fits the team perfectly, especially with how the bullpen is constructed as of now.

Wilson will team up with Seth Lugo and Jeurys Familia as the setup guys for Edwin Diaz. He also can be used as a lefty specialist as certain situations pop up. Last season left-handed batters only hit .190 against him. He also has plenty of experience in the back end of games with 14 career saves and 42 games finished in the last two seasons.

Wilson isn’t perfect, but he fits the role nicely and makes the Mets bullpen strong with 5 trustworthy relievers and plenty of depth as of now.

What’s Next

In all honesty, there isn’t much left for the team to do besides add depth pieces. Harper would be great but he is not happening and there are not any other outfielders with impact bats in free agency that the Mets should look at.

When looking at the bullpen they have Robert Gsellman, Justin Wilson, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz locked in with Luis Avilan likely going to grab the 6th spot. There about 7 other guys that will be trying to get the last spot in the bullpen.

(I hope the Mets only carry seven relievers but they may have eight relievers at many times this season)

Beyond the outfield and the bullpen, the Mets could use another veteran starter that they can throw in AAA with Hector Santiago and Corey Oswalt for depth. With plenty of options in free agency that signing may not happen until Spring Training starts and pitchers are more willing to sign minor league deals.

I have also pointed out in the past that the Mets need catching depth as they have two offensive-minded, injury prone players in Wilson Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud slated to be the catchers this season with Tomas Nido as the only backup plan.

They need to sign one or two veteran catchers to minor league deals to make sure they don’t have to bring in a catcher off the streets during the season should they have a situation like last year when their two catchers went down within a week of each other.

Guys like Rene Rivera, Caleb Joseph, Stephen Vogt, and Drew Butera will likely have to sign minor league deals and should be on the Mets radar.

Pitching and catching depth appear to be all that is left on the Mets’ offseason shopping list.

January 31, 2019

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